HAYS — A prestigious national grant is allowing the Kelly Center at Fort Hays State University to meet the mental health needs of more students, the institution said Friday.


The Pathway to Help, Hope and Success initiative, created by the grant committee, was awarded the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association.


The university is receiving $264,561 over a three-year period, and Fort Hays State is investing the same amount in matching funds. FHSU received its first installment of the grant in January.


Gina Smith, director of the Kelly Center, said the grant came at a critical time, with students facing issues never experienced before because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Some students are struggling financially. Some are anxious about the transition to more online classes. And then there is the social isolation aspect of remote learning.


"Now is a time when it’s more important than ever to offer programs that support in as many ways as we can," Smith said.


Smith said the grant program allows the Kelly Center to address mental health needs in a lot of different ways. It will help develop a collaborative, evidence-based approach to enhance mental health services for all college students, especially for traditionally underserved populations.


The funds helped the Kelly Center hire a case manager to provide personal counseling services, attend mental health-related training and create and implement programming that raises awareness of suicide on college campuses.


Sadie Spurlock, grant case manager, hosted a six-week online Zoom series during the spring called "Together, Hays" that focused on mental and physical health featuring health care workers from FHSU and the Hays community.


Spurlock created a training video for new faculty and staff in their asynchronous virtual training modules. Center staff has also hosted suicide awareness training events for local companies, held presentations for Greek life and provided a virtual suicide risk assessment and management training course for Kelly Center interns.


Some graduate students were trained this spring to help provide therapy for clients. Plans are to train other student leaders on campus, such as residence hall leaders, as well as faculty and staff, to increase the campus community’s ability to recognize, manage and prevent suicidal tendencies.